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Trump DOJ Secretly Subpoenaed Data from House Democrats and Families; Bipartisan Senate Group Reaches Infrastructure Deal; NYC Candidates in Final Debate Before Early Voting; Florida School Board Approves Plan to Ban Critical Race Theory. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 11, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Also with us CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

John and Gloria, great to see you. John, Watergate is often seen as the mother of all political scandals. From what we know about the bombshell revelations of what the Trump Department of Justice was collecting in terms of Democrats, now we know, and reporters, phone records, et cetera, and gag orders, how does this compare to Watergate?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There is a slight comparison with reporters. There is no comparison at all with members of Congress. I can recall no instance where Nixon went after a member of Congress using anything improper or even in the slightest bit devious.

With reporters, he did. He wiretapped reporters at one point. When it was legal, he had the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, tap reporters and White House staff as well, trying to track down leaks. When that became illegal by a ruling of the Supreme Court, he pulled the taps. So he did stay within the law on that, but he was aggressive in going after leaks, no question.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And Gloria, I know I revisited this a few times, but Republicans abandoned Nixon, right? We've got now Republicans who are sticking with President Trump. Two impeachments. We're learning more about this and no condemnation from Republicans after we're getting this reporting.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, not only no condemnation here but no calls for clarification, no calls for further investigation. You have an inspector general now that's going to be looking at this. No Republican saying that's exactly what we need. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to have Bill Barr, the former Attorney General, testify. We need to have Jeff Sessions testify.

The Democrats are calling for that. But you would expect, even in the age of Trump, that there would be some Republicans saying, look, this cannot stand, this kind of investigation, and spying, on Democrats who were investigating the president.

I mean, the guardrails are off and at some point, Republicans have to say, this is not good for American democracy, and so let's just get to the bottom of it.

CAMEROTA: John, because you've seen some version of this movie before and lived it, what is about to happen next or what should happen next?

DEAN: Well, the counsel law, the inspector general law, is actually a post-Watergate law. That does give some apparatus to effectively investigate it internally. What happens, what's needed is a Congressional inquiry where they can, indeed, force Sessions and Barr to come up before Congress and explain what they did or didn't do.

Whether they'll do that or not, I don't know. I've been surprised that this Congress hasn't done more to put some teeth in its subpoena power. It's one of the weaknesses in the separation of powers where the executive branch, even former members of the executive branch, can stonewall almost indefinitely.

We just saw McGahn after two years finally come to The Hill. So, that's what needs to happen. That's what normally would happen. We don't know what will happen in this instance yet.

BLACKWELL: John, are you surprised that we're here? Adam Schiff said -- Congressman Schiff said that the norms that were put in place after the Nixon administration were supposed to protect against something like this, but even they could not stand up to the Trump administration. Are you surprised we're having this conversation?

DEAN: I am. Actually, that norm he's referring to, directly involved me. It was the fact that I had gone to the prosecutors early and talked to them and Nixon wanted to know what I had told them and how it affected him as well as his top aides, his chief of staff and his top domestic adviser. And he was pumping the head of the criminal division, brought him over to the White House, sat him down and intimidated him into talking about what I was talking about.

That's the basis of the norm. That's a no-no where a president becomes directly involved in a case. So I have a special sensitivity to that norm. And I'm sorry to see it violated as it has been by Trump on a number of occasions.

BORGER: You know and the interesting thing here is that Donald Trump never made any secret, as you all know, of who he wanted investigated, right. He wanted Adam Schiff investigated. He wanted Andy McCabe investigated. He wanted Jim Comey investigated. He said it publicly that Schiff was the leaker, for example.


And so, Barr, you know, who told Politico today that he didn't have any direct conversations with the president about this, didn't have to because the president told everyone or anyone who would listen that this is what he wanted. So what Barr did was he took a defunct investigation, it was over

under Sessions, they never found anything, and he reinvigorated it and then appointed someone to be in charge of it because the president of the United States still was not happy.

And, you know, that is just an exploitation of the Justice Department. And I think the Congress needs to get to the bottom of it. The question is, once they get to the bottom of it, what can they actually do about it? Who does Bill Barr answer to at this point as a private citizen?

CAMEROTA: John Dean, Gloria Borger, thank you for pointing out the remaining questions -- or I should say, the questions that are just beginning today. Great to talk to both of you.

So next, a bipartisan group of Senators gets to a deal on infrastructure. The White House is interested, but does it have the votes?

BLACKWELL: Plus, Florida becomes the latest state to ban critical race theory from its classrooms.



CAMEROTA: A new infrastructure deal just mapped out by a bipartisan group is, of course, facing some headwinds.

BLACKWELL: Now, the White House is listening. They believe there could be some wiggle room here. The potential problem is progressive Democrats. Some are threatening not to sign onto this deal. CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. So, what's at the center of the debate over this plan?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we have some early details about what this deal actually includes. We know it is $1.2 trillion in infrastructure spending. We also know that $579 billion of that money is new money. Of course, that was a key sticking point between Republican negotiators and the White House that caused the president to walk away from those talks with Shelley Moore Capito earlier this week.

Now one of the question marks that we still have is whether or not Democrats would be able to rally around a proposal that five of their more moderate members came to a consensus on with Republican counterparts.

One of the concerns that you have heard behind the scenes and publicly from Democrats right now is that they are worried that the people who are negotiating this in the middle, people like Senator Joe Manchin, people like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, that those members are not necessarily going to embrace a broader and robust infrastructure plan that they think is necessary.

That's why you're starting to see someone like Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, argue this is now moving on two tracks. That he believes that a bipartisan deal could be reached potentially with changes that need to be made to this bipartisan group's proposal. And in addition, Democrats could move forward on their own bill using that process known as reconciliation. That, of course, allows Democrats to pass a bill with just a simple majority.

But you need all of your Democratic members to do that. And I think that is where the challenge really lies on this moment.

CAMEROTA: What does the White House say?

FOX: Well, the White House says that this is a good start but they have some questions about exactly what this proposal will include. They were briefed yesterday from some Democratic members, but right now what we've seen is these top lines. What you don't see is a breakdown specifically of all of the pay-for on paper nor do you see where exactly this money is going to go. Whether that's rail or highways. Those kind of sticking points can be major once they're revealed to the rest of the caucus.

BLACKWELL: All right. Cautious optimism around this plan. Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

All right, just into CNN, the Biden administration says it will return $2 billion of federal money that had been set aside to build the border wall, but the Governor of Texas says he's going to keep building the border wall there along his state's border.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I will announce next week the plan for the State of Texas to begin building the border wall in the State of Texas.




BLACKWELL: So Alisyn and I as you can see are on from 2:00 to 4:00 here on the east coast and we have two to four things to talk about with CNN political commentator Errol Louis. See how that works.

He's also the host of "Inside City Hall" on Spectrum News New York.

Let's start with New York City mayoral race, early voting begins on Sunday. So last night the candidates met for what turned out to be a contentious debate. One major topic playing out in cities across the country, how to tackle a rise in violent crime while confronting incidents of police brutality and excessive force.

Well, Maya Wiley one of the candidates refused to say whether she would let New York police officers keep their guns. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you take the guns away from the NYPD?

MAYA WILEY, CANDIDATE FOR NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I am not prepared to make that decision in a debate. I am going to have a civilian commissioner and civilian commission that is going to hold the police accountable and make sure we're safe from crime but also from police violence.


CAMEROTA: Maya Wiley tried to clarify her comments today saying in a statement, no one is seriously talking about taking guns away from cops. Of course, I don't support that.

OK, let bring in Errol. Errol was that flat-footed of her?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was. It was unexpected though. I have to say, the question kind of came out of left field. There are no serious proposals on the table. And by that I mean, it hasn't been talked about in prior debates. And there have been dozens of debates. It hasn't been talked about on the op-ed pages. It hasn't been talked about in the forums where serious decisions get made. And so she, I think like a lawyer, was being a little bit cautious and saying, well, let's think about it and talk about it.

But that in the current crime wave that we're experiencing here in the city it's not necessarily what people want to hear. They want to hear that every candidate for mayor is as upset as most New Yorkers are about the rising tide of shootings and of homicides so she kind of missed out on half a news cycle just based on that one answer.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and she was seeing some momentum after the endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Is that flattened now?


LOUIS: Well, no, I think, look, what it reflects is that she is trying to get the progressive base of the Democratic Party on her side and get them mobilized, and it's not that easy because that's the wing of the party where proposals like, hey, maybe we should be more like London and take the guns away from the cops, are actually getting kicked around, but they are getting kicked around in relatively narrow forums.

We're on the big stage right now. Early voting is beginning this weekend, and the whole thing is going to be over by the 22nd. So it's a very inopportune time to try and tackle something this weighty and this meaty in this environment. Very difficult, but the progressives don't have a better candidate right now. They have only a handful of candidates. Two others they have kind of walked away from. Maya Wily is trying to consolidate them. It's part of the politics of the moment.

CAMEROTA: Right, I mean I know that not all of our viewers are in New York, but as goes New York certainly with gun violence and with how they will tackle it, you know, it could be instructive for what's happening around to the country as well.

OK, let's move on to Texas. Governor Greg Abbott announced a crackdown on illegal immigration and he's promising to build a wall along the state's border with Mexico. He's up for re-election next year.

Will sounding President Trump like help Governor Abbott in Texas which you know has shifting demographics.

LOUIS: It will help him in the primary. It will become problematic immediately thereafter. And it will also be a problem I think to the extent that people try and think this through. It's not as if Donald Trump didn't try and build a wall on the border. He tried everything he could possibly think of. There are a lot of real issues with trying to do it, whether you're the federal government and certainly if you're a state government.

The leading problem, of course, is that the Rio Grande kind of changes shapes. That's the nature of a natural boundary. The other problem, of course, is there are private landowners on both sides of the boarder who really have to determine whether or not they are going to let anybody, including Governor Abbott build a fence on their property or a wall.

So he's right back where he started not to mention the enormous cost of making any of this happen so it's -- it works great as a campaign promise. Perhaps he's going to use it the way Donald Trump did as kind of a signifier of where he stands on immigration, but not really intending to build it at all.

BLACKWELL: All right, we'll see how far that goes.

Let's go to Florida now and the board of education voted to ban critical race theory in public schools yesterday. The rule was originally proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis. Listen to the governor.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's wrong. It should not be taught in schools, and we need to teach people the truth. We need to teach them about the history of this country, and that includes everything that's happened, but you can't lie and you can't promote your ideology and false narratives.

I mean, they will attack cops with this type of ideology in schools and meanwhile they have like 87 percent of the kids aren't even literate in some of these schools. I mean, so it shows you they are not trying to educate. They are trying to indoctrinate. We're not going to let that come to Florida.


BLACKWELL: So DeSantis might be setting himself up for a run for president. But Errol, we're seeing this across the country. Why is this the issue that the Republican Party is choosing?

LOUIS: The reason they have chosen it is that it's a way to attack civil rights. It's a way to attack anybody who is concerned about changing the narrative of race, and it's a way to do it without anybody knowing anything about what critical race theory actually, is right?

That man you had on your screen has never read a word of it. This is an interesting deep kind of legal theory, kind of hard to get your hand around it. I was on a college campus when they were sort of developing a lot of it. It's real, really tough. It's been out there for 20 years. It's not like it's some new thing. So they say --

CAMEROTA: But it's in vogue now.

LOUIS: Well, they throw it out there like a buzzword.


LOUIS: Understanding that nobody is ever going to read any of the long academic papers that actually constitute critical race theory.

CAMEROTA: And the gist of it that racism is systemic.

LOUIS: The gist of it is that in the legal system, which is where this comes from, in the legal system there are lots of different points where if you look at how laws were created, how they were interpreted, how judges interpreted them over the centuries you see systematic bias.

And that you need to understand that rather than simply say, or there's a legal principle that's out there. You have to say, well, you know, it was invented in the 19th century. There may have been problems with it. We have to sort of examine it. Again, it was an academic theory. Ron DeSantis doesn't know or care about any of that.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness you're here to explain all of that to us. Errol, great to see you, great to have you in the studio.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Errol.

LOUIS: Good to see you.

BLACKWELL: And still ahead, the White House press secretary joins CNN live from England as she traveled with the president for the G7 Summit. Got details on how he will handle his upcoming face-to-face with President Putin.



BLACKWELL: This week's CNN Hero David Flink was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at age 11, and he struggled in school.

CAMEROTA: Now as an adult his nonprofit is helping those with similar learning differences.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVID FLINK, CNN HERO: Eye-to-eye provides a safe space that's constructed around what's right with kids so they can talk about their experiences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you get scared during tests or like nervous or no?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHILD: I have anxiety and like I shake a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that happens to me sometimes.

FLINK: People's hearts sing when they are seen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really cool. I like how you use the duct tape as a handle.

FLINK: My moment that I'm wishing for is when the problem of stigmatizing kids because they learn differently goes away. I want them to know that their brains are beautiful. I want them feeling like they know how to ask for what they need and that they can do it and that's what we give them.


CAMEROTA: To see David's story or nominate a CNN Hero yourself go to

Now we need to talk about this alarming study that's just been released from the CDC and it finds a sharp rise in suicide attempts by teenage girls during the pandemic.

In May of 2020 emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts started to increase for girls aged 12 to 17. By February and March of this year the visits were up nearly 51 percent compared to the same time in 2019. Now for boys the increase was only 3 to 7 percent. So obviously we need to dig into this much further to see what's going on. But if you or someone you know is in crisis call the national suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.

So this obviously requires much more examination about what's going on with girls.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.